With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus finally in hand, we’re able to do an unboxing, offer details about what’s included, and tell you how the phone performs.
We’re on our way to a full Note 10 Plus review, but need more time to test things like battery life and the camera. That means we’ll be doing 24-hour and 72-hour recaps of our findings, updating you on our feels toward the phone in real-time.
In the last day, we got to inspect the Note 10 Plus size and build quality (it’s big, but feels thinner than other Note phones), run a few performance tests, and take a few photo samples with the front and rear cameras – including some lowlight shots.
Samsung built an impressive phone – but one at an impressively high price at a time when there are several other options out there including several Samsung phones, like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus. Is the S Pen stylus worth the extra cash?
Here are our early findings after unboxing the Note 10 Plus.
Note 10 Plus unboxing
We got the Note 10 Plus in the reflective Aura Glow finish, meaning it takes on the colors of its surroundings, often exhibiting a cool rainbow effect. This is different from the cool Ocean Blue and Lavender Purple colors on past Note phones that has a matte finish.
Plastic-wrapped Note 10 Plus: Opening the Note 10 Plus box, the first thing that we noticed is the phone is sitting there protected in plastic on the front and back. Yes, you can peel both sides without worry, unlike the troubled Galaxy Fold, in which the plastic film over the screen was essential to its functionality. Not the case here.
S Pen: The Aura Glow version of the Note 10 Plus comes with an S Pen in a deep blue color, one that’s smaller and thinner than prior S Pens. And yet its functionality has improved with more tech inside: a gyroscope and accelerometer have been added to enable motion controls – that’s in addition to the Bluetooth LE we saw in the Note 9.
USB-C charger: Our favorite part of the Note 10 Plus unboxing was seeing the newish 25W USB-C charger, offering fast charging speeds out-of-the-box. You may not know this, but the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G came with the same 25W charger.
But the Note 10 Plus is going to be a significantly more popular phone, so it’ll be a first for many fans who are used to Samsung’s old USB-A charger block and slower 15W charger speeds. There’s a USB-C-to-USB-C cable included in this box, too.
Other tools: There’s a SIM card ejector tool, USB-A-to-USB-C adapter, and a claw-like tweezer tool for replacing S Pen stylus tips when they wear out.
What’s not here: Normal headphones. That’s because the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, instead relying on the USB-C charging port and the included USB-C headphones for personalized audio.
Samsung is among the last phone manufacturers to axe the standard headphone port in a flagship phone. Bonus: The USB-C headphones are AKG earbuds, so they’re at least of good quality if you don’t opt for wireless earbuds.
Also not here: A 3.5mm-head-jack-to-USB-C adapter to use normal earbuds. They’re inexpensive on Amazon if you need one.
Big, but thinner, and the pinhole has shrunk
The Note 10 Plus is a mighty big phone – its 6.8-inch screen has me yearning for the innovation of the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It’s meant for extra-big hands, whereas the 6.3-inch Note 10 screen is suitable with big-to-normal-sized hands.
The phone can fit in jean pockets fine, but summertime shorts with smaller pockets or almost all back pockets? It’s just begging to slide out when I sit down. We had that happen to us with big glass phones like this before. This one is just bigger.
What helps is the fact that the Note 10 Plus is 7.9mm thin, meaning it’s slimmer than last year’s Note 9 by almost a full millimeter. It’s still easy enough to wrap in one hand without a Note 10 case, but you’ll need two hands to operate it properly.
I did run into a few jarring false touches when tightly gripping this massive handset, often encroaching on the sides of the curved screen. But it’s not as bad as when I first started playing with Notes (starting with Note 3) when they had extra-sensitive displays compared to an iPhone.
The center-aligned punch-hole front camera isn’t as distracting as you might think. So far, it’s easy enough to ignore and is 26% smaller than the Galaxy S10 punch-hole.
The most likable perk: the outline of the front camera lights up when you take a timed selfies (like the S10 series does, but this will be a first for Note users). That’s incredibly handy when you’re taking a group selfie and non-Samsung-phone-owning friends want to know where to look.
Note 10 Plus performance
This is the fastest Samsung we’ve tested, and we have the Note 10 that’s packing the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and 12GB of RAM. It doesn’t have the souped-up Snapdragon 855 Plus chip that’s appeared in a few Android phone in recent weeks, but it’s no slouch.
With a Geekbench multi-core score of 10,849, it’s among the fastest Android smartphones we’ve ever tested. But it’s not the fastest phone. That title still belongs to the iPhone XS, soon to be replaced by the likely far speedier iPhone 11.
What’s important is that these raw benchmark numbers tell us that the Note 10 is fast enough to run the top 3D games for years to come and also act as a device to link up to Windows 10 and handle desktop-like apps in Dex mode. At the end of the day, the tit-for-tat numbers don’t matter nearly as much as some people like to claim. This phone is incredibly fast.
First Note 10 camera samples
We’re still using the camera in a variety of situations, and our next update before the full Note 10 review will include many photo samples and comparisons to the Google Pixel 3, iPhone XS Max and Huawei P30 Pro.
But here’s a taste of what we’re seeing so far.
Ultra-wide lens – 42nd street / Chrysler Building
Regular lens – 42nd street / Chrysler Building
Telephoto lens – 42nd street / Chrysler Building
Ultra-wide lens – Empire State Building
Regular lens – Empire State Building
Telephoto lens – Empire State Building
Front camera – Wide selfie (low light)
Front camera – Regular selfie (low light)
Front camera – Color Point Live Focus mode (low light)
Rear rear lens (low light test)
Regular lens – Food shot
Don’t worry, it’s a beat burger
Regular lens – Food shot
Don’t worry, it’s a beat burger
The actual still photos exhibit bright and punchy colors, more saturated than the often dull, but color-accurate pictures out of a current-gen iPhone. It’s a lot like we saw on the S10 Plus.
The big Note 10 camera upgrade is in its video capabilities, so we’ll be testing video stabilization in side-by-side comparisons. Is it really better? Can it compete with GoPro’s in-camera EIS stabilization? That’s something we’re testing on Sunday in the 72-hour update.
We need the sun to set and rise a few times before we get full use of the camera in a variety of scenarios.
Ongoing tests for a full review
We have a lot more to say about the Note 10 Plus, and we should. This is Samsung’s most advanced and most expensive non-folding smartphone. But we can’t come to a conclusion with a star-rating just yet. One-day reviews aren’t our thing.
We’re going to be testing the Note 10 battery life, both in labs and in the real-world (so far, it’s excellent), and continue to snap photos with the camera in good light, medium light, and low light. There are four cameras on back (if you include the Live Focus depth sensors) and one embedded in the front display.
Clearly, unboxing the Note 10 was just step one. We have a few more tests to run before we stamp a final review score on this device and figure out where it goes in our best phones list.
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